NOTE: As of 2022 the Center for Executive Coaching is now accredited with the ICF as a Level 2 Coach Training Organization. The ICF has changed their language and replaced ACTP with Level 2. We were among the first group of coach training programs to receive this accreditation, after a rigorous review by the ICF.

How to position your executive coaching practice to stand out from the crowd

Are you ready to position your executive coaching practice so that you stand out and not blend in? Too many executive and leadership coaches seem like generic, commodity, same-old-same-old coaches. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to, well, stand out from the crowd.

Here is an example from outside of coaching.

My family recently went to see a pianist who billed himself as “The Funniest Pianist in America.” This is a good, solid positioning. There used to be a classical pianist named Victor Borge who became famous for integrating comedy with his piano playing. You can still see him featured in the USA on public television once in a while. After Borge passed away, there certainly seemed to be a void for this particular positioning. To this pianist’s credit, he created marketing messaging that helped him stand out. This included some short Youtube videos showing him using humor during part of his act. As a result, he sold out his show in our town. He took audience members through three of the four parts of the marketing funnel to get us to buy tickets:
  • We became aware of him through his online listing.
  • We became interested in him because of his unique positioning.
  • We decided to purchase tickets and see him, which could be the trial phase.

Unfortunately, this pianist failed to get us to the final part of the marketing funnel: loyalty.

He just wasn’t that funny. In fact, his act was a mish-mash of four different approaches to piano playing: a little bit of comedy, but not as much or as funny as we expected; quite a few cover songs of popular music, like a piano player in any hotel bar; a couple of classical standards, one done especially well but the others good enough; and some of his own original compositions, which my kids called “boring,” and I think they were being polite. So we have a talented pianist, trying to brand himself one way, but failing to deliver on the promise of his brand. If he really wanted to be the funniest pianist in America, he could be. He would have to change his act completely, and actually be funny. Instead, he is not fulfilling the promise of his branding. This is going to come back to bite him when people post reviews and don’t tell others about him — or actively complain as I am doing now (but without using his name, because he seemed like a good guy and certainly had talent).

The messages for executive and leadership coaches:

1. Be bold. Position yourself as the best at solving a particular problem or helping a particular type of leader succeed. You can focus on leaders in an industry, a functional leader (like CFOs in health systems or sales managers), a geographic region (the top executive coach to Boston biotech company executives), a demographic group (women leaders in technology), and even a psychographic group (the top business coach to faith-based business owners). You can also become the leader in solving a specific problem, like how to resolve a conflict. There are lots of opportunities if you have the courage. Even though the pianist in this example didn’t have the substance to back up his claim, he at least took a stab at positioning himself strongly. 2. Back it up with substance. Here is where the pianist fell short. Your positioning is a promise. Keep your promise. If you say you are the best, become the best. Otherwise, you will have trouble getting beyond having a few clients. In almost every field outside of executive and leadership coaching, the leaders have the courage to position themselves strongly, and then back it up with substance. You see it everywhere, from real estate agents (waterfont, international, luxury, distressed, commercial centers, industrial centers, golf course communities, buyers’ reps, condos, veterans…) to comedians (corporate, focused on millennial women, observational, blue collar, filthy, story tellers, classic joke crafters, political…). If you want to thrive as a coach, you should do the same. At the Center for Executive Coaching, we give you guidance and as much support as you want to position your executive coaching practice and prepare yourself for success.

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